1. Sciencedaily: “Endogenous Proteins Found in a 70-Million-Year-Old Giant Marine Lizard

Preservation of collagen fibers in a marine reptile fossil is said to prove “biomolecular preservation over deep time.”

Mosasaurs are marine lizards believed by evolutionary paleontologists to have become extinct 65 million years ago. Documenting the preservation of protein fibers in a mosasaur fossil, Swedish researchers have concluded that biological soft tissues and molecules can survive for millions of years.

“The fossil record is capable of exceptional preservation and occasionally labile and decay-prone tissues, such as skin and melanosomes (color-bearing organelles), are preserved as phosphatized remains or organic residues with a high degree of morphological fidelity,” they state. “Yet, whether multimillion-year-old fossils harbor original organic components remains controversial, and, if they do, a positive identification of these biomolecules is required” (PLos One, emphasis ours).

The 2005 discovery of unfossilized connective tissue in a dinosaur bone excited controversy about how long soft tissues could survive. Either the dinosaur wasn’t as old as evolutionists supposed, or soft tissues could last 65 million years. Since that time the challenge has been to prove that biological molecules could survive those long ages.

The present study combines state-of-the-art techniques to demonstrate that collagen molecules—not just their mineralized replacements—survive in the fossil. Collagen is the main protein in bone.

Synchrotron radiation-based infrared microspectroscopy uses a tightly focused beam of infrared radiation to stimulate molecules. Biological molecules respond by vibrating in characteristic ways. Thus molecular mapping can now be carried out at a subcellular level. This technique demonstrated the presence of collagen protein fibers in the fossil. Antibody-tagging techniques proved the fibers were still biologically identifiable as collagen. Amino acid analysis showed that the amino acids which make up collagen were actually still present. The spectroscopic signatures were distinctly different from those expected from bacterial contaminants.

Thus, the study shows that some fossils still carry original organic components. However, nothing in this remarkable study has demonstrated how long those protein molecules have been preserved.

Notice that the ScienceDaily article did not report any carbon-14 dating.* Why? Because the presupposition that the fossil must be millions of years old eliminates any consideration of such a test. Carbon-14 would not be detectable in organic material millions of years old. Carbon-14 decays rapidly enough that it would become undetectable after 95,000 years. The technique is also not applicable to fully mineralized fossils because the organic carbon is all gone. The researchers actually did find some C-14. However, they attributed the small amount they found to contamination since they also found DNA from bacteria, humans, and animal glue. We contend the contaminants make the dates obtained from the C-14 uninterpretable but not irrelevant. But the researchers would have appeared foolish to their colleagues had they used such a test to suggest a young age for their ancient collagen.

Fossils are normally dated according to the presumed age of the rock layers where they are found. Mosasaurs are said to have “inhabited marine environments during the Late Cretaceous” era. In other words, because their fossils, like those of the dinosaurs, are mostly found in the Cretaceous layer of the geologic column, they are believed to have lived then. This interpretation ignores the explanation based on the Flood geology model: animals of various types were swept up together in the rising waters of the Flood and buried in groups according to factors like body density. In other words, the geologic column is more like an obituary column than a timeline of life forms.

Massive upheavals of water and sediment caused rapid burial of organisms under conditions which facilitated fossilization. Studies like this one should provide further insight into the processes of fossilization itself.

* Update June 27, 2011. The source article did briefly mention the 14C analysis methods and results. Thanks to some astute readers for pointing this out to us.

For more information:

2. DiscoveryNews: “Grand Canyon Born by Continental Lift

The Grand Canyon slices through the high Colorado Plateau, but how did the plateau come to be so high? New seismic data paints a picture of the plateau’s underbelly.

Most geologists believe the Colorado River started carving the Grand Canyon six million years ago. But they’ve been unable to explain how, millions of years earlier, the “mostly undisturbed chunk of crust” known as the Colorado Plateau was lifted 2000 meters (6561 feet) above sea level.

The Earthscope Transportable Array measures the speed of seismic waves traveling through different substances to visualize the earth’s crust and mantle. Recent analysis has revealed an anomaly beneath the plateau.

The anomaly consists of a density 120 miles deep. Because its shape matches a discontinuity on the undersurface of the plateau’s crust, Rice University researchers believe this density “dripped” off of the undersurface six million years ago. Their theory is that molten mantle surged up to the undersurface of the crust, fused to it and increased its density, and made a chunk drop off. The molten mantle then buoyed the great plateau up above the surrounding crust. And it did so without causing the nicely layered plateau’s crust to be broken up.

That six-million-year figure has puzzled geologists. Uniformitarian calculations have demanded an uplift beginning 70 million years ago. Volcanic basalts across the plateau date at 25 and 6 million years. So “incision rates” (erosion rates calculated from radiometric dates) have suggested the canyon is only six million years old. The secular model has no explanation for the discrepancy, so the present study proposes this dripping blob and subsequent buoyant uplift.

Another researcher from the University of New Mexico, however, is skeptical. She says, “The tendency is to say we have what looks like a drip and therefore it is a drip. We need to be really careful about that interpretation.” She points out that the new theory depends upon the rock in the crust getting denser by a rearrangement of atoms such as iron into a tighter form. She argues that such “chemical changes aren’t well understood.”

The debate over the interpretation of this geologic data illustrates an important scientific principle in the study of origins. “The facts” are subject to multiple interpretations, and without the ability to go back into the past to observe events first-hand, we simply must continue gathering evidence and see what interpretations fit the evidence best.

DiscoveryNews states: “. . . the Colorado plateau remains an ugly mystery to geologists. They can’t figure out why and how it rose thousands of feet over the millions of years it took to carve spectacular natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.” The global Flood and post-Flood upheavals solve this mystery. In the wake of the Flood, the weakened mantle and crust were subjected to tectonic forces sufficient to lift up mountain chains and huge plateaus, including the layered sedimentary rock of the Colorado Plateau. Not only would the massive forces required to lift these huge portions of the earth’s surface be available at the end of the Flood, but the layered crust would be soft enough to resist cracking. In the unstable post-Flood world, a huge lake likely broke through the Kaibab Upwarp to carve the Grand Canyon.

This Flood geology model fits the evidence, and there is nothing inconsistent with it in this amazing glimpse of the invisible underside of earth’s great monument to catastrophe.

For more information:

3. NewScientist: “Cooperative robots obey evolutionary law” (re)sparks debate:

Robots who “learned” how to share are “the first real confirmation of Hamilton’s rule, one of the most fundamental theories in modern biology.”

Altruistic behavior—helping others at the expense of oneself—flies in the face of the Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” Since both human society and the animal kingdom contain examples of altruistic behavior, evolutionists needed to explain this apparent conflict.

Their explanation was Hamilton’s law, first promulgated in 1964. This basic principle of evolution, called “inclusive fitness theory,” says “that the evolutionary benefits of helping another would outweigh the costs only if the animals were closely related. Specifically, [Hamilton] said the benefit to the other, multiplied by the relatedness of the animals, had to be greater than the cost to the helper.”

Essentially, the idea is that a gene can insure its survival by helping creatures that share that gene. In an evolutionary paradigm, altruism must have an ulterior motive.

About a year ago Nature published “The Evolution of Eusociality,” touching off a hot debate that has gotten a bit nasty. In the article, Harvard’s Martin Nowak suggested that Hamilton’s kin selection theory was inadequate. He argued that social change was affected by a variety of group dynamics including, but not limited to, kinship. “The Mathematics of Being Nice,” summarizes these factors. The article also describes Nowak’s religious beliefs, best described as theistic evolution.

To prove Hamilton’s law, a Swiss robotics lab has simulated genetic diversity in mobile robotic cubes which forage for plastic food to earn points. “The robots then have a choice determined by their software: keep the points they have scored or share them with other robots in the arena.” The robots were programmed to share only with “genetically” similar robots.

Genetic diversity was simulated by varying 33 randomly selected “genes” affecting each robot’s functionality. Mutations and genetic crossovers were programmed into the system. As each robot made the “choice” dictated by its programming, it either kept the points it earned or shared them. The winners in each round were able to pass their “genes” on to the next generation.

The whole thing was then put into a computer simulation and allowed to chug for 500 generations. “Over several generations, a pattern emerged: robots became more likely to share points with another if the two robots were highly related and if the benefit associated with a cost was high.” The “benefit” was determined by the degree of “genetic” similarity.

The principle is really simple: if you only help the ones on your own team, then the ones on your team are more likely to advance to the next round. In essence, the simulation assumed that Hamilton’s law was true, designed a game with Hamiltonian rules, and then declared that the law must be true when the results came out exactly as they were programmed to. The project only demonstrated Hamilton’s law; it didn’t confirm anything except the ordinary laws of probability. And the simulation was not designed to include any of the other factors proposed by Nowak’s work.

What’s being examined here isn’t evolution at all, but natural selection. Furthermore, a human being created in the image of God is much more than a sum of his genes and the ions sloshing in his neurons. There is a spiritual side to every person, and that spiritual side is dominated by a sinful nature. The sinful nature makes people inherently selfish, and the God-given conscience provides an impetus for genuinely altruistic behavior. Ultimately, if a person receives salvation from Jesus Christ, a new nature begins to battle with the old. And all of this goes way beyond genetics, kinship selection, and group dynamics.

4. Physorg: “Nuralagus rex: Giant extinct rabbit that didn't hop

Once upon a time a rabbit king was buried on Minorca . . .

A giant bunny that did not hop is showing up in children’s periodicals, prompting questions from our readers. The Nuralagus rex fossil, whose name means “rabbit king,” was recently found on the Mediterranean island of Minorca. It is six times the size of a modern European rabbit and ten times the size of extinct mainland rabbits. Alleged to have lived three to five million years ago, this king-sized rabbit is believed to have grown big on its isolated island home because of a lack of predators.

Because the spine was short and stiff instead of long and springy, researchers believe this rabbit “lost its ability to hop.” Its skull openings for eyes and ears were small, so they say that “because of lack of predators to worry about, Nuralagus rex lost visual and hearing acuity.”

Remarking on the “lost” features of the “bunny king,” one paleontologist noted, “As evolution has shown repeatedly, strange things happen on islands. Quintana and colleagues dramatically demonstrate that these floppy-eared critters are not as biologically conserved as many of us have thought.”

Or are they? The bunny was still a bunny. Its unique features may have made it less hardy in some other environments, but there is no reason to believe it devolved from better-endowed ancestors because it no longer needed to hop, see, and hear. King rabbit of Minorca didn’t lose traits because he didn’t need them. But he was a dandy example of natural selection in action because he survived well without them!

5. Physorg: “'Explosive' evolution in pupfish

Pupfish in the Bahamas and the Yucatan, because they eat a different diet than other pupfish, are said to have evolved rapidly.

About 50 species of pupfish are found in the Americas. They all thrive in hot salty water. Most eat detritus and algae scraped off of rocks. But of the three species living on San Salvador Island, one eats snails and clam shrimp; another nibbles the scales off of other fish. In the Yucatan, one species eats fish and another, plankton.

Because the pupfish is believed by secular researchers to have spread across North America three to five million years ago and then to have been isolated by the formation of the lakes in the Bahamas and Mexico just eight to ten thousand years ago, these unusual species are said to have “evolved special jaws to match their diets” 130 times faster than other pupfish (LiveScience). Researchers are puzzled by the speed of the evolutionary change given that there seem to be no significant differences in the habitats or survival advantages of the aberrant dietary habits.

Evolution requires the development of new genetic information leading to the development of new kinds of creatures. But these are all pupfish. They are able to interbreed and therefore are different variations within the animal kind. Presumably these “special jaws” referred to are well-suited to the diet available to the fish, encouraging survival based on natural selection.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • “Many millions of these mini-Big Bangs are already being produced daily” say researchers at the Large Hadron Collider, reporting they’ve increased the number of particles per beam by 6%. The idea is that the LHC will prove that the universe originated with the big bang. But it will not. The LHC is only simulating “the conditions that secular scientists believe existed during the big bang. Just because something can be done today doesn’t mean it has ever happened in nature in the past” (see Beams Collide Today in Expensive Hadron Collider).

  • The recently discovered Tiarajudens eccentricus, believed to be herbivorous because of its “spoon-shaped incisors,” also sports “long, pointy sabers.” Its molars were replaceable like those of many reptiles. It also had an occlusive bite: in other words, its top and bottom teeth fit together nicely. Stating that “dental occlusion evolved independently many times, which . . . means that nature was doing experiments with this,” Brazilian paleontologists expect the find to elucidate the evolution of “early tooth development.” The dog-sized therapsid is believed by evolutionists to be a 260-million year old “relative of today’s mammals.” But once again, we need to realize that common designs do not imply evolutionary ancestry but rather a common Designer who created fully functional creatures with the equipment they needed, including their teeth.

  • Two species of Costa Rican beetles (genus Chrysina) produce brilliant metallic silver and gold coloring using layers of chitin which selectively reflect and amplify specific wavelengths of light. The 70 layers of chitin form a stack only 10 microns thick. Each layer refracts light differently to split the light like a prism. The reflected light combines with additional incoming light to produce a bright metallic appearance. This metallic look may help the creature to survive in its rainforest environment by allowing it to mimic the appearance of brightly reflective raindrops.

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